Where are all the women?

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Taking a closer look at the lack of women speaker representation at Web Summit Dublin 2014 and other tech conferences, and what we can do to change this.

Written by: Josephine Goube and Lora Schellenberg

Last week, we attended Web Summit Dublin, a technology conference that has grown at a dazzling pace since its inaugural event in 2010. With 20,000 attendees, hundreds of speakers on 13 stages, and media like the CNBC, Financial Times and The Guardian, a gathering like this not only impacts the tech scene in Europe, but around the world.

Of the 120 speakers on the Central Stage, where the main action of the Web Summit took place (and reserved for the biggest leaders in the tech industry), a mere 17 (15%) of the speakers were women. 8 of those 17 were actually journalists, leaving just 9 women viewed as “tech leaders”.

One of the names causing the most buzz at the conference was actress and philanthropist Eva Longoria. Another woman speaker was supermodel Lily Cole. We can’t help but wonder, was the representation of these two more about their good looks or their accomplishments?

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We are entirely aware of this issue with tech conferences all over the world, which is the reason DevelopHer and other women in tech organisations exist in the first place. We want to make sure future tech conferences have more of a gender balance in terms of leadership. We want to help organisers find the best women who are more than willing to speak.

We’ve heard all the common excuses as to why there aren’t more women representing at tech conferences. Here are a few:

  • We can’t find women who are as credible as other male speakers in terms of contributions to technology
  • Many women aren’t interested in speaking because they lack the confidence
  • Women who have families at home aren’t available to give their extra time to speaking gigs
  • We don’t know where to find these women tech leaders

We want to do our part in helping increase women leadership representation at tech conferences. If you’re a woman interested in joining a network of women speakers, simply fill out this short form. That way, when we’re approached by conference organisers to give suggestions of women speakers, we’re readily able to do our part to help.

2 thoughts on “Where are all the women?

  1. Melanie aka Cyberspice says:

    What do you mean by “tech leaders”?

    Quite often when I see actually see women in STEM speaking they’re usually managers and business women and the like and actual true techies are very under represented. There is the same issue at some of the Women tech events like Geek Girl Dinners where developers, physicists and so on are usually a small minority of the attendees with women in geek companies but from management or HR or marketing making the majority of those there.

    I do speak regularly, for example at Wuthering Bytes here in Yorkshire or the Dutch PHP Conference or the Embedded Linux conference in California, so I decided to fill in your form. I wonder why the company and position is important. Again this seems to suggest you’re looking for “industry leader” types rather than actually techies.

    Much as many women are under represented in tech. Many women who are in tech feel mis-represented by these sort of campaigns. I related no more to say the top ten women in tech lists which get regularly published in the media than to many of the men in tech.



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